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HOW TO FIND FAITH AT THE MOVIES: Your Supreme Ordeal

July 18, AD2013 5 Comments

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In the series HOW TO FIND FAITH AT THE MOVIES, I have invited you to take a hero’s journey in search of faith through watching movies. As seen in our ordinary world, we first encountered The Fool’s Quest to Understand and asked “Where are you coming from?” Then we considered how each of us is called to adventure through well-drawn questions that present a true issue: Issuing the Call to Adventure (“How are you stating your issue?”).

The issue I posed for myself was re-worded after addressing The Role of Reluctance (“Who is authorizing the decision? Whose ‘Why?’ questions are you wanting to respond to?”); Encountering Your Wise Ones ( Part One & Part Two) (“What is your ‘Pope’ advising? What action is your ‘Popess’ taking?”); Crossing Your First Threshold (“Where is your sufficient proof found? What are the pros of your issue?”); and The Power of Love and the Love of Power (“How are the cons of your issue manifesting? “What are the ‘Powers That Be’ saying?”).

Following those considerations, I asked you to come face to face with Your Real Agenda in the hero’s inner sanctum: “Who is your worst enemy? How is your real agenda being revealed?”

Now, in this post, I ask you, acting as the hero of your own journey in search of faith, to answer questions leading up to the supreme ordeal of answering “How are the facts and reasons of your issue becoming known?” to help you endure the supreme ordeal of your own faith issue, as I deal with mine: \”Whether, since I will someday die, do I want to take only those actions that satisfy my desire to love?\”

Your Supreme Ordeal

8.41.    Power of the Strong: Where is your real agenda\’s \”want\” coming from?

Whitney Houston sings I Will Always Love You. Take a listen and consider carefully the lyrics.

The song comes from the movie The Bodyguard, a poignant, but bitter-sweet love story. Bitter-sweet because Whitney’s character, like the diva she played and the goddess implied, leaves her human lover, played by Kevin Costner, alone at the parting airport scene. While this may be reminiscent of the final scene in Casablanca, in both films there is an underlying problem.

What is it? In both instances, the lover is left behind and the beloved takes off? No, that is the obvious problem. Underneath it is the deeper problem Siddhartha noticed and tried to address: the suffering that comes from desire. But rather than try to deny the desire, I ask where does it come from? Where does your deepest desire, you real agenda’s “want” come from?

The movie Inception offers a helpful, though false, take on the question.

 

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The movie is helpful because it suggests that your deepest desires have been implanted in you. The plot of the movie takes the viewer into level after level of a person’s labyrinthine sub-consciousness to help discover where “it” all started.

The false aspect of the movie is its take on reality. The structure of the movie itself reflects the impossibility of where your deepest “want” comes from for it is shaped as like the optical-illusion called a Penrose Stairs:

 

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But since the movie and the Penrose Stairs are recognizably dealing with the impossible, what is uncovered in the movie is the hero’s deepest desire: to find out where his or her deepest desire comes from. It is another example of truth being found upon reflection about what is understood as false.

When Jesus Prays at Gethsemane (a second garden of Eden), he shows us where his deepest desire comes from. It is from his relationship with Our Father. It is in our blood from conception. When Jesus sweats blood during this moment with Our Father, that relation becomes manifest and is linked to his offering of his blood for all of us to drink in his Eucharist.

In this sense for Catholics, our deepest desire comes from what God the Father wants us to do in our lives and with our lives.

Not all of us get this. Some may never reach that garden moment of reflection and ponder the inception of the deepest desire. Still, those who do get it, do not get it all at the same time. Why?

8.42          Power of the Weak: When are you willing to surrender?

In Peg by Steely Dan, the lyrics include the phrase “Peg, it will come back to you.” A catchy tune with a catchy idea: it will all come back to you. Good and bad? What goes around comes around?

Plato’s notion of how we know things is based on remembering, anamnesis. According to Plato’s epistemology, we know things because we remember them,  from a previous life, via reincarnation. Perhaps this is why the timing of the discovery of deepest desires is different for different people?

The movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button also offers a helpful, though false, take on the question.

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The movie is helpful because it brings into focus the whole notion of life time. Brad Pitt’s character is born old and over his life time becomes younger and younger, while during the same time others age as we know they do.

By confusing us about time, we eventually recognize that time for human life is not circular as some philosophers consider, even though the planets and stars help us keep time with their cyclical movements. Human time is more like the path of the labyrinth, with twists and turns from the beginning through midlife and its apparently final ending:

 

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As Catholics, we believe we are given life via the Holy Spirit, from heaven above, at a particular point in time, the moment of conception, and travel through the labyrinth to the center of what our lives are meant to be and then back to where we came from, retracing our steps in light of what we have learned along the way, and exit at a particular point in time, the moment of death, to enter the Life after life-after-death, known as Heavenly Kingdom of God (or the Hell of our own making) when we are asked to make one last decision.

When you do not surrender to this belief, you may well lead the curious life of Benjamin Button. As an approach it leaves you without any friends or loved ones whatsoever. Might as well live in the present moment, carpe diem etc.

By not actualizing one’s deepest desire, the approach effectively prolongs the suffering unless and until one eliminates oneself in the ultimate curiosity of nothing called Nirvana, the very thing Jesus metaphorically warned his disciples to avoid:

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The signal that Jesus surrendered appropriately and fittingly to do what Our Father always wanted him to do comes when you see how An Angel Ministers to Jesus in the aftermath.

Jesus is not alone, despite his sleeping companions. The approach of Jesus is to wake us up to reality not enlighten us into thinking that life is but a dream from our inception and we are simply rendered curious throughout our lives. No, we are not “incepted”; rather we are “concepted.”

As Catholics, we believe God created us calling us out of nothing. We do not return to it. When one thinks reality is nothing more than dreaming, that inceptive starting point leads to an end in dreaming without anyone who can claim to be the dreamer, a la Descartes. It is an attempt to return to nothing, the ultimate form of nihilism in my way of thinking.

But does nihilism really have consequences? You betcha.

8.43          Gathering: What forces are being gathered against you?

The lyrics of the song Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, despite their modern allusions, might as well be heard as the last words of Judas after betraying Jesus to the authorities. Here we have a song for the nihilist.

“But wait!” you say. “Something does really matter.”  What?

The modern versions of what matters is depicted in the movie Man of Steel wherein the individual super hero (personifying autonomy and liberty) defends us against the evil forces of the state (totalitarianism). It is the newest iteration of Superman. Father Robert Barron provides an a spot-on commentary on this movie, reminding us of the roots of this battle in the philosophies of Nietzsche and Plato.

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So in effect, the forces present today that are gathering against you and your faith journey may be seen as coming from the extremes of the political spectrum, called the left (Nietzschean) and the right (Platonic). Most people I suspect see the spectrum as a line:

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But I see the political spectrum differently, in the man-made shape of steel known as a horseshoe:

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When looked at this way, what may be gathering against you and me on our faith journeys may be similar to those gathering against Jesus in his life. As I described before, these forces come from a variety of sectors and are largely the result of egocentric ways of living.

When Judas Betrays Jesus, Judas places Jesus in the center of these political forces with Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate on either side of him.

 

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From a dramatic story point of view, Judas may be seen as placing the Protagonist (Jesus) into the final battle with the Antagonist (Caiaphas) and Contagonist (Pontius Pilate).

When you or I are put into the final battle over the issue being faced, there will likely be a moment when we see coming out of the peripheral forces (like the Pharisees, Herodians, Zealots, Scribes, Elders, John’s Disciples, Essenes, and Sadducees) people who represent the Antagonist and the Contagonist of the story of the issue being dealt with. But, the battle is never a static moment in time as depicted above, as if the horse we are sitting on is standing still.

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The battle is dynamic. The horse is moving. Moreover, there are going to be some who fall off the horse because the situation is dynamic. Paul discovered this after all was said and done when he got knocked off his high horse upon he finally meet up with Jesus. But during the situation there will be others who fall off. Why?

8.44          Opposition: What characters are not following your lead?

In the song Separate Ways, by Journey, we can listen to the pain of friends and lovers who are parting ways. “True love won’t desert you” the lyric sings in response to the separation. “Someday love will find you/ Break those chains that bind you….”

What seems to be happening is the person in the process of making the decision can be seen parting from those who are not at the same point in the decision-making process. There is a sense in which the false chains that  bind you are only broken when they are lifted off first. Then and only then can true love’s chains be put in place.

Are there other characters who may falling away from the decision-maker at this point in the supreme ordeal? Yes. With the decision-maker seen as the Protagonist who is up against an Antagonist contradicting him and a Contagonist surrounding him from other angles, it is not them. Rather, it may be the voices of one’s Sidekick, one’s Guardian, even one’s Reason.

But as these voices peel away, they are likely to expose to final voices that oppose the lead of the decision-maker. Emotion arises and the hidden Skeptic is uncovered as the intellectual component of emotional Contagonist and the willful Antagonist.

So much for the theory. Take a look at the movie The Rite and see these concepts come alive in storied depictions. Can you pick out each of the characters opposing the Protagonist and see how it is his skepticism that is finally expelled?

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When Peter Denies Knowing Jesus, we have this same falling away happening during the faith journey of Jesus and his Apostles, notably in the person of Peter. Jesus knew how Satan follows us all closely, especially when we are in the throes of making a decision. In the past Jesus was there to tell Peter “Get thee behind me, Satan” but this time Peter was on his own, having parted ways for a while. Peter’s emotions signal his eventual understanding as he came back to his senses, weeping bitterly, and his faith in and love of Jesus returned.

8.45          JUSTICE: HOW ARE THE FACTS AND REASONS OF YOUR ISSUE BECOMING KNOWN?

All of the above builds to the climax of the supreme ordeal. Knowing where your real agenda’s \”want\” is coming from, when you are willing to surrender, what forces are being gathered against you, and who are not following your lead, you finally face the question: how are the facts and reasons of your issue becoming known?

Why is this step so important? Take a listen to the song Won’t Get Fooled Again. Our culture promotes reliance on knowledge. While Catholics understand knowledge to be one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, our modern culture demands evidenceproof, and scientificreasoning much more materialistic in some quarters and at the same time more spiritual in other quarters.

This fundamental split between approaches to knowledge, via body and mind, has been noted and addressed by great Catholic writers, two of who are Jacques Maritain and Etienne Gilson, in their respective books: The Degrees of Knowledge and The Unity of Philosophical Experience: The Mediaeval Experiment, The Cartesian Experiment, and The Modern Experiment.

 

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(Those two books helped open my mind after reading the following two that try to explain a huge rift in our modern, terrorist-filled era: The Closing of the Muslim Mind and The Closing of the American Mind.)

Given the problems we face with our modern views on knowledge and, at the same time, our heavy reliance on knowledge, I have picked the classic movie Twelve Angry Men to depict the consequences of relying only on what we claim to know when dealing with an issue of faith.

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Here’s a link to the film so you can Watch 12 Angry Men for free. After you watch it you are invited to consider how I have gone through my own supreme ordeal, sorting out what I call the Truth From Fallacy In 12 Angry Men. (This separate website follows on my presentation of my Truth or Consequences Deck in an earlier post.)

Reviewing this movie is unbelievably timely when considered in light of the recent George Zimmerman trial. The movie is particularly helpful in showing how difficult it can be in dealing with a jury of egocentric people.

From my analysis, the movie also gives examples of how fallacious arguments about evidence enter into a discussion.

But there are three deeper outcomes, one more obvious than the other two.

First the obvious one: The contrast between the two jurors who become friends in the process and the single hold-out who leaves the courthouse alone.

The not-so obvious outcomes: (a) the process does not result in us knowing whether the accused is guilty and (b) I come to the realization that, though I do not know what the answer to my issue is, I can, must, should, and want to decide it anyway.

(a) The jury process of knowing only results in us knowing the son’s being the one who killed the father was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Note well: not all or any doubt, but reasonable doubt. We are left with the presumption of his innocence when such  proof is not forthcoming. This may help some who are confused by the outcome of the Zimmerman trial, though the larger issues of race will have to be left for another day.

(b) Having the power to vote in the jury process shows us what choice-making really is. Jack Warden’s character, “Juror #7” is a fine example of confusing choice-making with decision-making. E.G. Marshall’s character “Juror #4” on the other hand is a fine example of judgment –making. He finally admits that he has a reasonable doubt. You might anticipate that I think Henry Fonda’s character “Juror #8” is the decision-maker in this movie. He clearly leads the questioning. He is Socratic in his questioning. What he lacks is what Joseph Sweeny’s character “Juror #9” has to offer: an objective correlative to his insight that there may be reasonable doubt. “Juror #9” sees the marks left by the impressions of glasses resting on the nose of “Juror #4” and recognizes it for what it is: the blind-spot that “Juror #4” did not see and the key to understanding why the female witness could not have seen what she claimed to.

Moreover, when this movie is taken in the context of a search for the answer to an issue of faith, I recommend considering further how one can see the young man accused of killing his father as a figure of Jesus: an innocent person accused of the worst crime: blasphemy against god-the-father. Lee J. Cobb’s character “Juror #3” sure seems to see it that way.

And finally, in pondering the ways in which the movie 12 Angry Men uses fallacious arguments to uncover the truth, do you find it at least ironic that, in the fallacious mockery intended when Jesus Is Crowned With Thorns, we have a sign of the truth of the kingship of Jesus Christ?

How do such outcomes affect your issue of faith? To my mind it suggests that finding faith is more than a process of knowledge of facts and reasons. It requires one to go beyond knowing the ironic aspects of situations, as I have alluded to in another recent post.

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Next time we will learn more about seizing the sword on your hero’s journey. But for now, please concentrate on your issue and enduring the supreme ordeal of your issue of faith. Thanks in advance for your participation.

 

HOW TO FIND FAITH AT THE MOVIES

Using

The Decision-Maker’s Path ™

By John Darrouzet

(Cumulative Ordered List of Themes, Questions,

Musical Warm-Ups, Movie Links, and Meditations)

 

 

HOW TO FIND FAITH AT THE MOVIES: Your Supreme Ordeal

8.41. Power of the Strong Where is your real agenda\’s \”want\” coming from? I Will Always Love You Inception Jesus Prays at Gethsemane
8.42. Power of the Weak When are you willing to surrender? Peg The Curious Case of Benjamin Button An Angel Ministers to Jesus
8.43. Gathering What forces are being gathered against you? Bohemian Rhapsody Man of Steel Judas Betrays Jesus
8.44. Opposition Who characters are not following your lead? Separate Ways The Rite Peter Denies Knowing Jesus
8.45. JUSTICE HOW ARE THE FACTS AND REASONS OF YOUR ISSUE BECOMING KNOWN? Won’t Get Fooled Again Twelve Angry Men Jesus Is Crowned With Thorns

 

© 2013 John Darrouzet. All Rights Reserved.

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About the Author:

John Darrouzet is a successful Hollywood screenwriter, an accomplished lawyer, a student of decision-making, and a deeply committed Roman Catholic layman who is FINDING FAITH AT THE MOVIES. Read more about John here.

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